From Badmans Tropical Fish
I have kept and bred Bettas for quite some time. Many Betta keepers have asked me over
and over about the correct way to do this for a successful spawn. These instructions
should provide you with enough information to accomplish just that. Happy Betta Breeding!
The Breeding Pair:
Make sure that the male and female are relatively the same size. Females are
usually somewhat smaller than the males, but do not try to breed a very young male or
female with a much older mate. Someone will get hurt.
Condition the Pair:
Feed well, preferably with live food (brine shrimp) and keep their water very
clean. Allow the two to see each other for a couple of days and then remove the female
from the male's sight before placing him in the breeding tank.
Use a small tank (I use 5 l/2 gallon) with approximately no more than 4-5 inches
of conditioned water; a corner sponge filter; submersible heater set at 80; a plastic lid
or piece of Styrofoam cup cut for the bubblenest; and plastic or live plants so the female
can hide when needed. Do not have any rocks or substrate in this tank.
Put the male in first. Let him get used to his surroundings for about an hour or so. Then
introduce the female by putting her in a hurricane globe so the male can't get to her
right away. They should show some interest in one another, and he should flare at her and
start working on the bubble nest. (I had the experience a couple of times that the female
was already full of eggs and very shortly after introducing her into the globe and seeing
the male, she started to release her eggs very quickly. She had been bred several times
before with the same mate. I released her immediately and the spawn began.)
When the bubblenest is fair size, and she displays vertical stripes and stands
"on her head" in the globe, you release her. Also look for her breeding tube to
be protruding. It is visible behind the pelvic fin. There can and will probably be some
nipping and chasing during this time. As long as they are not sparring too badly, leave
them alone. If one or the other is being torn up very much, they are not ready. Put her
back in the globe. Some sparring will occur as this is the ritual of their mating but
should not be permitted to last for great length of time.
The process of the pair "being ready" can take from l hour to 4 or 5 days.
When they are ready, he will entice her to the nest, and she will eventually follow. The
mating process can take anywhere from 1 hour to 4 or 5 hours. He will "embrace"
her, squeeze the eggs out, and the eggs will fall to the floor of the tank. She will look
like he has killed her, being very still and motionless for a few seconds, like in a
trance. He will catch or pick up the eggs from the floor of the tank and "blow"
into the bubble nest. (I had one pair in which the male would not have anything to do with
the eggs, and the female was the one who picked up the eggs and put them into the nest.)
When the spawning is complete, she will swim away from the male and hide. He usually won't
bother her as he is busy picking up eggs that fall from the nest. When spawning is done,
remove her immediately (taking care not to disturb the nest) as she may become interested
in the eggs and start eating them. The eggs are white and are a little bigger than a grain
of salt. You will probably need a magnifying glass to see them hanging from the bubble
Raising the Fry:
After the spawn and removing the female, you need to treat both her tank and the
breeding tank with Maroxy. This prevents infection to her from any torn fins, and is
needed in the breeding tank to keep fungus from developing in the eggs. You also need to
cover the tank with plastic wrap or glass so that no cooler air is at the surface of the
tank. When the fry's labyrinths start to develop (at about 5 to 7 weeks), and they come to
the surface for air, they can get pneumonia and die from the cooler air. I leave the cover
on the tank for the duration, until they are moved to jars or taken to the pet store for
Start an infusoria culture with lettuce and water or have on hand "microfood" to
feed the fry when they are ready. At first the fry will live off the yolk sac and do not
need any food. Start to feed about two days after they hatch or when they become free
In about two weeks, you will need to start feeding either live baby brine shrimp (you can
set up your own hatchery) or microworms (which are started from a culture and not
ordinarily found in pet stores) to feed the fry. Microworms are easier to keep, as
the live baby brine shrimp only last about five days after hatching. You need to keep two
hatcheries going so there is a constant supply of food. The fry will need to be fed
about every four hours or so, small portions at a time.
About 36 hours after the spawn, you will notice little "black dots" with tails
falling out of the nest to the bottom of the tank. The male will studiously go to the
bottom of the nest, retrieve the fry and blow them back into the nest. When the fry become
a little more free swimming in the horizontal position, you can remove the male from the
tank. It is also possible to remove him earlier if he is not a good caretaker, eating the
fry. This is when you really need to pay attention as to how many fry you have as he might
be a good poppa at first, and the next minute eat every one he picks up. If you must
remove him, the fry will land on the bottom of the tank and be okay there until they
become free swimming.
You need to keep the water clean during the time the fry are growing up. Use a very
small plastic tube attached to air tubing or a turkey baster to suck up the debris from
the bottom of the tank. Run the water into something clear so that you can look for and
retrieve any fry that may have gotten sucked up the siphon. Catch with white plastic spoon
(so you can see them) and replace back in the tank. Water replacement has to be the same
temperature so as not to chill the fry, and be conditioned to remove chlorine and
Betta fry are very, very tiny when hatched, and are very slow growing. Even after
almost three months, they are still very little. It takes approximately 30 weeks for them
to develop any color or have any size to them. They are usually not very active and most
will basically sit on the bottom of the tank until feeding time. As they grow, you must
pay close attention to them. As the males get older, you will notice them becoming
aggressive with each other. This is when the males should be removed from the tank and
"jarred". And this is where even more work is involved. You need to have on hand
many mason jars for the males, and these will all need to be cleaned on a regular basis.
(I have had at times over fifty mason jars sitting around my house with these little fish
in them.) The females will be okay together. As time progresses and the fry become larger,
you can add water to the tank to gradually fill it.. If there are quite a few female fry,
they may need to be moved to a larger tank so as to not overcrowd them.
You may notice that after removing the male from the spawning tank, he acts
"weird." He may be very tired from protecting and retrieving the fry
or even be depressed because his work is finished. Feed him well, add aquarium salt to his
water (one teaspoon per gallon of water) and in a few days, he should be back on
You may also notice that after a pair has spawned, they are very shortly ready to go at it
again. If you have the room and proper set-up, you can repeat the spawning. However, you
should wait at least two weeks if possible so as not to wear the pair out. If you have
your hands full with the spawn you already have, don't worry about breeding again. She may
release her unfertilized eggs and he may build bubble nests, but neither of these
activities will hurt them.
I think that just about covers the process of breeding these fish. Sometimes, you
can just put the two together and immediately have a spawn, but don't hold your breath. My
first spawn took several days, happened while I was away, and I was not quite sure there
had been a spawn until I saw the fry falling from the nest. I was fortunate enough,
however, to catch them during the act one afternoon and have the whole beautiful process
on tape. Mother Nature works hard on making us look like fools, you know. But my son got
an A+ on a report he did for his 8th grade Science class!!! ?
For more information about Betta
splendens, go to:
Baumgarten: Betta splendens: General
Information and Breeding
Keefer: Betta Lessons
Kick: Caring for Betta splendens
Wilkinson: Labyrinth Fishes, Part III: The Bettas